Balance

Balance is the secret to the universe. Now you know.



It is why atoms do not like their nuclei to be separated and why we don't all fly off into space from the cetrifugal force of the earth's rotation. Good old gravity has always got our backs.

We also have just the right balance of particles in the air around us that allows us to breathe, even though about three quarters of it is actually made up of nitrogen. Consider that if all of the air on earth was oxygen, then it would only take a single spark to set the entire planet ablaze. Nitrogen is what they put inside incandescent lightbulbs to prevent the tungsten filaments from burning too hot.



Homeostasis is happening all around us. If you leave a piece of bread on the counter, eventually the humidity level of the bread is going to achieve an equilibrium with the rest of the kitchen. The same is true if you leave a can of beer in the garage. Eventually, it will be equal in temperature to the air around it. Nature, by nature, seeks balance.

Sometimes when the very delicate balances of the natural world are disrupted, it can cause serious problems. For example, over time, as predators like coyotes, bears and wolverines are killed off and their habitats destroyed, then the animals that are further down the food chain overpopulate and overgraze, which casuses soil erosion and other problems. Before long, these environmental imbalances can go so far as to change the way that rivers flow... and worse. Nature is constantly reminding us of the imperative of maintaining balance.


I tend to think that balance is an integral part of any artform as well. If you're using blue in a painting, for example, then an orange background will help it to stand out. In terms of the broader aesthetics, a balanced composition tends to make for an interesting image, as it invites the eye to move through it (instead of leading your attention to land in one place). 


When cooking, in most cases, a person seeks to achieve a balance between the various flavor elements at play. This is why cilantro can fuck right off. It overpowers everything else. If you want chocolate to stand out more, add some cinnamon, as this helps to ground it and provide balance. If you want to balance out a heavy umami flavor, add lime juice or some other acid to brighten it. If you put in too much spice, add a little bit of sugar. When in doubt, add ginger.

This holistic balance method is how I tend to approach baking as well. All measurements are approximate and subject to change at my discretion. I know that the fundamental difference between most kinds of dough is the ratio of liquid to flour (and sugar, if applicable). If I know what that dough is supposed to feel like, once I've got the right balance of the wet and dry ingredients, that's when it's ready to knead or bake or whatever. It really is all about having the proper balance. That isn't to say equal amounts of everything, just that each element is contributing to the whole without calling specific attention to itself. You don't taste the flour, the buttermilk, the sugar, the eggs, the vanilla extract, the baking soda or the salt. You taste the pancakes, which is to say that you taste all of these things in proportionate balance with one another. Then maybe you drown it in syrup, because pancakes usually need something sweet to balance out the flavors.




I could go on, as there are examples of this in nearly all of the things that bring us joy. In fact, I tend to think that the key to having happiness in one's life is to seek (or perhaps more accurately, allow) balance at every opportunity that presents itself. My spouse and I, for example, have very different personailities from one another, but we balance each other out. Further, it seems that the more balanced I am in my own life, the happier I am. I suspect that this is probably true with most people. 

If I make a conscious effort to take time every day to exercise and nurture my mind (by reading/writing/teaching/solving puzzles), my body (through physical activity) and soul (by playing music/creating art/being with the people I love), then I generally find this to be a day well spent. 

It all comes down to balance.  


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